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February 23 2014

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February 14 2014

Chinese Singletons Snatch Up Cinema Seats to Sabotage Valentine's Day Dates

Every year before Valentine's Day, a mischievous online group known as the “Damn Lovers” has mobilized its members to buy odd-numbered movie tickets in a bid to ruin the romance for couples who want to sit together.

This year, they finally succeeded in occupying every other seat in at least one cinema in Shanghai during the Valentine's Day primetime movie screening.

In China, Valentine's Day is rather special this year as it overlaps with Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xiao Jie, a festival which debuted during the Qin Dynasty around 200 BC during which single people would hung around in the streets under the lantern light with the hope of finding love.

The story about single netizens occupied Valentine's Day theatre prime time show was reported by local newspapers. Image circulated widely online. (via ChinaSMACK)

The story about single netizens occupying alternating seats in a movie theater during a Valentine's Day primetime show was reported by local newspapers. Image circulated widely online. (via ChinaSMACK)

As singles in recent years gained more visibility and power via the Internet and the modern invention Singles Day, a collective of singles called “Damn Lovers” (情侶去死去死團)or “Damn Love” (戀愛去死去死團)emerged among Chinese communities in China and Taiwan in 2005. The group belongs to the Kuso Internet culture, which relishes campy or outrageous content. According to Chinese Wikipedia:


The Damn Love group claimed that they wanted to resist the culture of ‘love capitalism’ by ruining the ‘romantic atmosphere'. While some may think that it is a radical organization, but most of its activities are just for fun in the [Japanese] Kuso style to give a platform to the lonely feelings of singles. Some members want to broadcast the message that you can be single and happy or that they are against commercial styles of celebration. Thus, they want to create an alternative way of celebrating festivals such as the Valentine's Day and the Christmas. Members who participate in Damn Love activities have to uphold the spirit of ‘to be damned’ or ‘damnism'. The mission of the group is: ‘we are singles and devoted to save those who are trapped in relationships”.

In the past few years, the group usually spread their messages online using darkly humorous cartoons and stories. For example, the song, “Wish all the lovers turned out to be long lost brothers and sisters” by band “Good Sister” was a big hit last year's Valentine's Day:

The song takes reference from a modern Chinese play, “Lei Yu” meaning thunderstorm to curse Valentine's Day. The tragic love story of “Thunderstorm” depicts two lovers who have overcome family pressure to be together but who turn out to be long lost brother and sister. The first half of the song's lyrics goes:


Today is February 14, the legendary Valentine's Day
Boys and girls in the streets are enjoying the festival
A rose costs about 2 yuan on an ordinary day
Today it is 10 times more expensive, but the girls still wear such a happy smile on their faces.
Today is February 14, the legendary Valentine's Day
My plan is to go home, read and eat instant noodles
But a f**king [instant messaging] QQ user asks me why I am alone
I can't help but send him this warm regard:
I wish all the lovers in the world are long lost brothers and sisters
I wish all the cinemas, restaurants are full tonight
I wish all the lovers in the world are long lost brothers and sisters
And all the beds in [hotels] Mo Tai, Home Inn, 7-days, Han Ting are occupied.

For 2014, single netizens decided to move beyond spoofs into action. So far, they have been successful in occupying one cinema in Shanghai. According to Shanghai Morning Post (via ChinaSMACK), one of the organizers of the occupation said that many of those who participated did so wanting to meet new friends, hoping to turn a “prank” into a “blind date”.

Of course, the lovers are also fighting back. Many are saying that they are happy to share just one seat.

February 13 2014

Self-Censorship in Hong Kong Claims Another Popular Radio Host

China is ranked 175 while Hong Kong is ranked 61 in the freedom of press index 2014 released by Reporters without Border.

China is ranked 175th while Hong Kong is ranked 61st in the World Press Freedom Index 2014 released by Reporters Without Borders.

“Hong Kong's media independence is now in jeopardy”, Reporters Without Borders pointed out in its 2014 World Press Freedom Index. The conclusion echoes the Committee to Protect Journalists’ special report on the practice of self-censorship in Hong Kong, in which Hong Kong legislator Claudia Mo commented:

Self-censorship – it's like the plague, a cancerous growth, multiplying on a daily basis […] In Hong Kong, media organizations are mostly owned by tycoons with business interests in China. They don't want to lose advertising revenue from Chinese companies and they don't want to anger the central government.

In the past ten years, a large number of newspapers columnists, editors, radio and television talk show hosts have been sacked because of their critical stance towards the Hong Kong and Beijing governments. The situation has worsened in the past two years, thanks to the new leadership of Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) adoption of a hardline position on “ideological battle”, which upped the political pressure on media organizations in Hong Kong. The political interference is exercised through replacement of senior news editors and the withdrawal of advertisements by pro-Beijing corporates.

The latest example of the poor state of affairs is Commercial Radio Hong Kong (CRHK), which sacked its most popular radio host, Lee Wai-ling, on February 12, 2014 without providing any reason. Back in November last year, Lee was forced to switch from a morning program to an evening program under the excuse of program improvement. Despite the pressure, she vowed to keep her voice heard over the radio. But now she has been silenced, as depicted by Lam Sui-bun's political cartoon.

Ng Chi-sum, a former phone-in host for Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), whose contract was discontinued in 2011 in spite of his popularity, pointed out that such “program rearrangements” are a kind of political punishment and humiliation. He shared his experience:

我被調到黃昏節目,絕不好過,為了平衡,他們找了幾個極左派來做我的拍檔,每次做完節目,都筋疲力盡 […] 還有向廣管局和電台的投訴攻勢,長官會不時刻意拿給我看,左派報紙一年五、六十篇的大批判文章,卻不聞不問,不發一言,不澄清不辯駁一個字都不回應。這擺明是要羞辱你,等你頂不住而辭職。

Back in 2004, I was switched from the morning to evening phone-in program at RTHK with similar excuses. Hong Kong residents are used to listening to the radio in the morning before they leave home for work. This is the peak hour with the most listeners and thus has the strongest influence [on public opinion]. It is a time slot that everyone wants to compete for. The switch will cut the audience by half and so is a move to reduce your influence. It is a punishment or even a humiliation for the host.

Political Cartoon by Lam Shui-bun.

Political cartoon depicting sacked radio host Lee Wai-ling. By Lam Shui-bun.

After I was moved to the evening, to balance the pro-Beijing voices of my co-host, I was extremely exhausted. […] In addition, I had to face all manners of complaints and attacks. My boss would hand me the articles written by the pro-Beijing newspapers to me. They published 50-60 articles within one year to discredit me. But my boss never spoke up to defend me. All these gestures are to humiliate you and to force you to resign.

Chan King-fai, a current affair commentator, observed that the political tolerance of the Beijing government has continued to shrink to the extent that even moderate critical voices have to be eliminated:

李小姐絕非火爆主持,而是擅長提問、「收風」和拆局,相比10 年前「青筋暴現」的名嘴,溫和太多了吧。同一份落差和驚訝也曾發生在較早之前,即吳志森被港台「封咪」之際:與之前的名嘴相比,「吳志森」猶如謙謙君子。但今天,隨着標準不斷滑落,他也成了必須被拔除的「眼中釘」。

Miss Lee is not radical. Her style is to raise questions, present insider views and analyze the political situation. When compared with the “hot-tempered” host ten years ago, she is too moderate. The same fate happened to Ng Chi-sum, who is like a gentleman. However, the standard [for censorship] keeps lowering and they have to be eliminated as well.

Blogger “hkcritics” asked what society could do to defend itself:


To address the issue from another angle, even if I [the commercial radio] do not give any explanation, what can you do? This is a sign – regardless of the pressure that the public imposes on the government, it doesn't constitute a threat.

We are being looked down, what else can we do? Siege the government building for 356 days? Join the occupy central campaign? What we see here is a dead end. The thermometer tells us that the frog is no longer in warm water, the water is boiling and the government can do whatever it wants to the frog.

Lee Wai-ling talked about the political pressure Hong Kong media organization is facing today.

Lee Wai-ling talked about the political pressure Hong Kong media organizations are facing during a press conference.

Sacked radio host Lee Wai-ling believed that the incident is political in nature in a press conference on February 13. According to's Facebook live-cast, Lee believes that:


What happened to her is not a single issue. It is related to the replacement of Ming Pao's chief editor and Hong Kong Economic Journal's political reporter team, the withdrawal of commercial ads from AM730 and Apple Daily. She hope that Hong Kong people would wake up and see what's happening to the society. If they choose to remain silent today, tomorrow they have no choice but remain silent.

While some suggested that online new media can be an alternative to mainstream media, as big corporates start to withdraw advertising from independent news organizations, whether or not the commercial model of local new media initiatives can survive is in question. As for the voluntary based citizen media model, so far very few have had the resources and organizational backup to produce original news and investigative reports. Once Hong Kong's mainstream and conventional media organizations have fallen, the online media will be further ghettoized and marginalized.

February 12 2014

China: Cleaning Up The Yellow

In Chinese language, the color yellow also signifies sex and pornography. The crackdown of sex industry and pornographic materials is termed as “cleaning-up the yellow”. Political cartoonist @remonwangxt's latest work is about the “Cleaning-up yellow” campaign in China.

February 11 2014

China Central TV Accused of Targeting Vulnerable Women With Prostitution Exposé

State media China Central Television's (CCTV) report on the flourishing sex industry in China’s manufacturing hub Dongguan City has triggered mockery and ridicule on Chinese social media.

The 25-minute report video details the city’s rampant prostitution. Using concealed cameras, the report showed women lining up for selection by customers in hotels and karaoke bars known as KTVs, and accused local police of ignoring prostitution and allowing the industry to thrive.

After the report, a 6,000-strong force reportedly raided 12 hotels and entertainment venues, leading to 67 arrests.

Dongguan is well-known as a hub for the sex industry, with 10 percent of the population said to be employed in the industry.

The CCTV report was widely watched across China and generated large amounts of comments on social media. On microblogging website Sina Weibo, “Dong Guan” became the most researched word on February 9, 2014. Many online celebrities and netizens wrote that they thought CCTV was reporting an open secret, some even mocking that it serves as a good tourism ad for the city. Others worried that the report is only targeting vulnerable people.

Screenshot of CCTV's report on Dongguan's prostitution (from youtube)

Screenshot of CCTV's report on Dongguan's prostitution (from YouTube)

Tencent news commentator “Liu Yanwei” wrote [zh]:


There is much more important news to report about in China, I’ve never seen the CCTV reporters reporting it.

Online celebrity “Wuyue Sanren” [zh] commented:


Sex workers are vulnerable in this society, so even if I plan to expose the industry, I will only investigate the reasons behind it. I will not try to attract an audience and gain popularity by shooting them dancing. A huge organization of abundant media resources shouldn’t report the news this way. When you shoot them dancing, do you not understand that you’re embarrassing your own profession and doing a spiritual strip yourself?

Miracledemocracy” analyzed the stories behind the prostitution:


Today after watching the CCTV report, I feel very uncomfortable. Thoughts as follows: 1) Who wants to be a prostitute if they can live a good life, there’s such a huge gap between the rich and the poor. 2) Chinese society’s imbalanced gender ratio at birth; the economic reforms and construction forced many people to leave their own homes. 3) This is a mistake caused by the system made by upper society, but the people at the bottom have to pay for it.

 “Zhongguo Zuozhuan” echoed the same sentiment:

官僚社会的逼迫迫使很多人走上了这条路 反过来官僚们又假装正义对其打击。。。。。我们更需要的是扫除贪官健全体制而不是官僚人渣的假正经!

The bureaucratic society forced many people to embark on this path, on the contrary, the bureaucrats pretend to show justice by attacking these people. . . . . We need a sound system to eliminate corruption rather than fake justice!

Journalist Liu Xiangnan wrote:


I despise CCTV for not pixelating the girls in the report during their unannounced visits, same with tonight’s news about the police crackdown on the prostitutes. This is disregard for human rights and human dignity!

February 09 2014

Chinese Dating Website’s TV Advertisement Backfires

One of China’s biggest dating websites probably never imagined their apparently smart and touching commercial would backfire and lead to an online protest.

In an effort to promote its offline dating service store, Beihe released a commercial on TV during Chinese New Year. The holiday for family reunions is also a frustrating period for many Chinese singles as the attention and pressure surrounding personal matters from the whole family is simply unbearable. So Baihe’s 30-second commercial comes right in time.

Screenshot of the commercial

Screenshot of the commercial “Because of love, I won't wait”

It’s about a young single woman who finally gets married for the sake of her dying grandma. Her grandma asks whether she’s getting married each time she goes back home regardless of her successful academic and career achievements. The title reads: Because of love, I won't wait. The commercial only sends one message: Whether or not it’s the right person, as long as you get married, you have fulfilled the family's wish, your personal wish and happiness should be subordinated to the family.

The commercial has triggered a lot of complaints online, saying it’s trying to promote wrong marriage values by taking advantage of family kinship. On Feb 6 2014, netizen “Cai Puning” organized a campaign on Sina Weibo to protest against Baihe. Within less than two days, over 7 million people joined the campaign. They urged that the commercial should be banned and the Baihe website should apologize to the netizens.

One netizen “Lao Chao” commented on Weibo:


Before the dying old grandmother who cries urgently for her marriage, the girl rushed into marriage, and a lively life has become a sacrifice of family kinship. This is the most horrible and ungrateful ad I've ever seen.

Another netizen “Gongda Houyuaner” is more concerned about the gender inequality the commercial conveys:


Actually forced marriage is not so objectionable, but the expression of gender discrimination throughout annoys me. [The society] denies her academic career, and only recognizes the value of her marriage.

Heavy Snowfall Brings Playtime to Tokyo

Heavy snowstorms hit Japan on Feb 8, 2014. Twenty seven centimeters of snow fell in central Tokyo, for the first time in 45 years. Moro Miya, a writer and a blogger who specializes in introducing Japanese culture to Chinese readers, collected the photos of snowmen and snow-animals that were posted by the netizens on twitter.

February 04 2014

15-year-old Girl Spins for Four Hours in Spring Festival Gala

Chinese netizens were outraged about such ridiculous performance. The girl Wei Caiqi rotated more than 8000 circles non-stop for four hours as performance. As explained by the TV hosts, the spinning performance is to indicate the Chinese sense of “time” and “history”. It sounds like a mockery.

ChinaSMACK translated some online reaction to the performance.

The Horse Year is Coming. Be Happy!

A happy lunar new year video is circulated in China WeChat. Bill Bishop made a backup in Youtube:

According to Lunar Chinese calendar, starting from January 30, 2014, is the Year of the Horse. In Chinese, Ma (horse) when uses with the word Shang (Up), means coming. The lyric of this new year greeting goes like this:

Horse Horse Horse. Year of the Horse Coming.
Year of the Horse, You get what you want. [Your wishes] will be realized soon.
In the Year of Horse, money, apartment and everything are coming soon.
Year of the Horse Coming, it is cool to greet in the new year.
Happiness is coming. Minions wish you happiness in new year. Happiness is coming.
In the Year of Horse, man and woman, old and young, all be happy.
Year of the Horse is coming, Happiness is coming.

China's Second Largest Online Retailer Files for US Stock Listing Inc., a major Chinese e-commerce company, has filed to raise up to 1.5 billion US dollars in an initial public offering (IPO) in the US, making it the largest IPO of a Chinese Internet company in the states thus far.

JD is a major competitor to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China's biggest e-commerce company, which is also considering going public in what is expected to be a much larger IPO valued around 100 billion. JD's business model is more similar to that of in that it is a direct seller of goods held in sprawling warehouses, while Alibaba runs online marketplaces.

The company's most distinctive feature is its highly efficient delivery team that reaches third-tier cities and is currently expanding to rural villages. Below is the latest advertisement of the company that highlights its delivery service:, founded by its chairman Richard Liu Qiangdong only ten years ago, had 35.8 million customer accounts by the end of the third quarter of last year. After two years of losses, the company said it registered a profit of 60 million yuan (about 9.9 million US dollars) in the first three quarters of last year, mainly due to interest income.

The company said it would use the funds raised to “acquire land use rights, build new warehouses and establish more delivery stations,” according to the filing. It currently operates 82 warehouses and 1,453 delivery stations across China.

Although the company's profit comes from its interest and the reach of its e-commerce platform is far behind Alibaba and Tencents, has its supporters. IT news commentators Xie Pu and Xu Ji highlighted the great potentials of the company's logistics, in particular its nationwide warehouse and goods delivery network:


We support because Richard Liu sees the intertwine between the virtual and the real. In the past ten years, it built its logistics system. is a logistic infrastructure. It helps the company to sustain and expand its business.


We support because it does not make easy money. E-commerce is no game and it has very little profit margin. To make money by building its logistic infrastructure and hiring tens of thousands delivery workers, this is not an easy task and the long-term effect will show.

China’s e-commerce boom

By 2015, China will have surpassed the US as the leading e-commerce market, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. On November 11, China marked its “Super Singles” day for jewelry and other sales to entice couples to shop for their loved ones. Sales hit five billion US dollars. By comparison, last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined reached around three billion dollars.

In such as huge market, local corporates such as perform much better than international giant corporates such as Amazon. Chinese New York Times columnist Li Chengdong compared and Amazon's performances in China on his Weibo:


In the rest of the world, Amazon occupies the number one position in all its markets. The company has been in China for about ten years and its services in China are on average better than the rest of the world. Amazon has more money, better technology, more advanced warehouses than If I have to explain why Amazon cannot beat down, it is because of Richard Liu. Amazon is run by a team of professional managers [rather than an entrepreneur like Liu].

However, Jing Nanke, who is customer of both Amazon and, disagreed with Li's judgement:


Nonsense, I am customer of both online platforms and I like JD better. Its customer service, delivery service and platform friendliness is better than Amazon. I don't think Amazon can gain an upper hand in China.

Lingpeng1973 said the “professional managers” of Amazon are poor at localization of e-commerce:


The professional managers don't understand how to run e-commerce in China and they are responsible to Seattle. They don't want to make mistakes rather than taking risks to compete for success. Thus, when competing with Richard Liu and Li Guoxin [CEO of, China's biggest online bookstore], who play the game differently, it barely makes business. Because of Amazon's super technology and warehouses, it had great potential before. Now that, among others, have established themselves in China, Amazon has lost its edge.

Li Guoqing, CEO of another online retailer,, believed that going public in the US could help to improve the company's capital flow and transparency:


Now the US capital market is becoming overheated, which offers good timing for fundraising. Liu once said “JD will gain profits in 2013 but will not go public in 2014″, but I would advise him to go public in the first quarter of 2014 so as to improve capital flow and increase audit transparency.  

January 31 2014

China's Propaganda-Heavy New Year's Gala Fails to Impress Viewers

It annoys more than it entertains. That seems to be the message people are expressing via social media after this year's broadcast of state-owned China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala celebrating Chinese New Year.

Known in Mandarin as Chunwan, the variety show regularly draws tens of millions of viewers every year and has become an essential part of celebrations for the New Year since its start three decades ago. The South China Morning Post reported that 750 million Chinese watched the gala last year, more than six times the viewership of the Super Bowl in America.

But its popularity has dwindled in recent years. This year's nearly five-hour long event on January 30, 2014, consisting of stand-up comedy, dancing, singing, magic and other performances, drove home the themes of the Chinese Dream - an idea promoting hard work and collective effort for the prosperity of China - and nostalgia for the country's red past. 

The show was never short on rosy language. For example, a song titled “I am not too demanding” performed by a popular comedian presented a comfortable middle-class life as representing the Chinese Dream:

The lyrics go:

I have an 80 square-meter house and a gentle wife. Our kid already finished college and secured a great job right after graduation. I commute between my workplace and home quite smoothly, rush hour is non-existent. I exercise outdoors and see the blue sky every day.

Pensions and health care are not problems because they will be covered by the government. This is my Chinese Dream, it’s small and simple. I am not striving to become a dragon or a phoenix. Instead, I want to be immersed in happiness. It’s easily attainable by standing on your tiptoes.

The backdrop behind the performance displayed the vast landscape of China, complete with newly built rural houses and some showcase infrastructure projects – all packaged to represent the Chinese Dream, a phrase coined by President Xi Jinping which is frequently evoked in media discourse and official speeches.

In addition to the theme of the China Dream, a session was devoted to the Chinese Communist Party's revolution history. The ballet performance of the Red Detachment of Women, a Chinese ballet set in the 1930s, made its debut during the show at a time when the legacy of red culture remains a contentious issue in China. The storyline follows peasant-turned female soldiers’ devotion to communism:

The political underpinnings are subtle but pervasive, in the words of the hosts, and reflected in the choreography. These messages lacing the performances are ordered from above – in an earlier visit to CCTV, Minister the Central Propaganda Department Liu Qibao urged that the gala should “spread positive energy” and promote “the rhythm of our era – the Chinese Dream”.

However, the gala is losing its magic spell on ordinary people. According to a recent survey, nearly 60 percent of the viewers were extremely disappointed in the program this year, particularly with the reduced number of stand-up comedy routines, which usually mock social happenings. The news of Cui Jian, godfather of rock music in China, pulling out of the show caused the gala's reputation to take a hit. He reportedly quit after refusing to comply with censorship requirements for his songs. 

The comments trickled in as the gala was underway, and the topic has remained trending as of the morning of January 31. Microbloggers in China have been largely critical of this year's show. Editor-in-Chief for the Financial Times Chinese Zhang Lifeng exclaimed:


Chunwan, what has happened to you???

Some took notice of the “red” performance. A Beijing-based media professional under the Weibo name Zhangwen de Wenzhang wrote:


Chunwan has been dominated by the Red Detachment of Women.

Xiong Peiyun, an outspoken commentator, found the program full of conflicting values:


Enslavement and freedom, uglyness and beauty, violence and softness, all displayed on the same stage. If I subscribed to a collective Chinese Dream, it would be a dream that is detached from the “Red Detachment of Women”, a dream that would lead to a “rosy life”.

Writer Beicui criticised the propaganda nature of the gala:


Chunwan phenomena: Why is it difficult to direct Chunwan? As if it's some chronic disease? What is the root cause? The answer is found in the fact that it uses the show to promote ideology, whoever directs the show has to implement the theme, it's like making plain water into good wine; 2 Why do [people] lash out at Chunwan every year while continuing to watch it? It's for the same reason of ideology promotion, the hotly debated part is the ideology itself rather than the art; 3 The phenomena will last as long as the “grand glow” [referring to directives from state leaders]. 

On Twitter, Chunwan has also generated a buzz. Jeremiah Jenne, a PhD candidate at Beijing Foreign Studies University, wrote:

Elaine wasn't entertained, she lamented:

Human rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig seemed to poke fun at Chunwan:

This wasn't the first year that the show's declining popularity was a topic of discussion. Writing in a Chinese newspaper in 2007, Ren Yi, a former visiting scholar of Harvard University, commented:

The Spring Festival Gala still needs to accomplish its political mission and disseminate political information. But its current format still uses the old political propaganda methods which will lose more and more of the younger audiences. Young people want to watch truly interesting entertainment programs, not to attend a class in political theories. In my opinion, that type of politicized style is in serious conflict with the market and commercial needs.

Old Video of Official Slapping Chinese Tennis Star Li Na Goes Viral

Video of Chinese tennis star Li Na, fresh off her Australian Open win, being slapped in the face by an official during an award ceremony of the China's 2001 National Games has gone viral on the Chinese web, sparking public anger about officials’ abuse of athletes.

In the video, Li is awarded a bronze medal from Jiang Xiuyun, the head of the national tennis team, who places the medal around Li's neck, then slaps her. 

Though local media outlets quickly followed up on the story with an explanation that the “slap” was actually an intimate gesture to cheer Li up, many did not buy the story. Li does disappointed when she receives bronze on stage, but appears taken aback by the “intimate gesture”, quickly bringing her hand up to touch her slapped cheek.

According the Jiang, she split Li and her teammate up during the match, which made Li unhappy. The gesture was an attempt to rid Li of her emotion. 

The sport system, managed by the Culture, Education, Health and Sports Committee on both national and provincial levels, is notorious for their attitude towards athletes. Citing the video, a non-profit organization worker, “Cai rang duo ji”, expressed irritation on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo for the humiliating action against Li:


Why didn’t Li Na express gratitude to the motherland? The common fate of Chinese is growing up in servitude and with insults. Nobody will love the motherland enslaving and insulting him or her whether successful or not.

His tweet won many echoes in the comment section. “Longxi Yize” wrote:


This is a society which calls rape love.

Another Weibo user, Jingya, watched the video and could not believe that it was an intimate gesture:


I just watched the video. I would never believe that it was friendly encouragement. If it was an intimate gesture, you would caress the face, how could you raise your hand up high and slap it instead? The facial gestures from people next to Li Na also tell what had happened.

Netizens also took the video as an explanation of her poker face during her homecoming ceremony when she received a six-figure cash award from local officials. Li remained stone-faced throughout the event. 

Li Na left the national team in 2002 and began to play on an international level. Her triumph at the Australian Open provided Chinese authorities with a chance to show off the country's soft power. The welcoming ceremony was staged in her hometown with the presentation of 800,000 yuan (130,000 US dollars) to her as a gift from Hubei authorities.

Li Na's expression during the award presentation in the Wuhan airport was interpreted as a reject to political performance. Image uploaded by Lawyer Yuan Yulai from Weibo.

Li Na's expression during the award presentation in the Wuhan airport was interpreted as a reject to political performance. Image uploaded by Lawyer Yuan Yulai from Weibo.

Local news reports revealed that she had refused to attend any public function at first, but the authorities sent staff to Guangzhou airport and escorted her to Wuhan airport, where the ceremony took place. But when she met with her former tennis trainer from Hubei and received the prize from the provincial leader, she did not show any gratitude in front of the cameras.

The Chinese Communist Party mouthpieces are not happy about her performance. A Global Times’ January 29 editorial criticized Li has been mystified by some as an icon of “individual success” in order to undermine the authority of the national sport system. The Xinhua news agency also stressed that Li's success has been sponsored by the state.

Lawyer Yuan Yulai posted a photo of her straight-faced response to the ceremony and pointed out that her refusal to act is more important than the Australian Open championship:

我个人认为,@李娜 的不装,比获得澳网冠军的意义更大。

I personally think that Li Na's refusal to perform has greater meaning than winning the Australia Open.

Many joined the discussion and interpreted her cool performance:


“Attending Happiness”: Thank you Li Na. Let the shameless government officials confront the real people. Let the ass-kissers have a good look at their stinky faces.

专治细胞缺水:80万是狗粮,想让李娜做政治道具。 穿道具很拘束,令人窒息。换哪个自由了的人都不开心

“Expert in curing cancer”: the 800,000 yuan [award] is dog food with an attempt to turn Li Na into political tool. The performance costume is suffocating. Anyone with a free heart will not be happy about it.


“The red and green brick time”: I wasn't paying attention to her in the past. Now I feel that she should be written into the Chinese sport history books.


saitpluto87: Some said Li Na is an ill-mannered person. But our society needs this kind of person to do away with the culture of the government and promote social progress.

作家-天佑: 每个公民都有不向领导媚笑的权利。

“Writer-Tianyuo”: Every citizen has the right to refuse to perform for the entertainment of the leader.

This post is co-authored with Oiwan Lam

January 28 2014

China's Tennis Superstar Li Na Awarded 800000 RMB by Home Province

The Chinese local authorities’ decision to award 800,000RMB(130,000USD) to China's tennis superstar Li Na has cast a cloud over the athlete’s homecoming, shortly after her stunning triumph at the Australian Open.

The prize money was quickly captured in news headlines in China, generating a wave of mockery and criticism directed at local officials, whose move appeared to be at odds with President Xi Jinping’s pledge to fight extravagance and cut back on government spending.

Li’s second Grand Slam Title came with 2.4 million USD worth of the reward, and given her endorsement deals with brands at home and abroad, she is arguably the highest paid female athlete in China.

In local TV footage, the poker-faced Li was shown posing for pictures with a local government official. The two held a red board in which the amount of the prize money was printed. According to Chinese individual income tax law, the 800,000RMB prize money awarded to Li is tax-free.

Li Na (Photo from Weibo)

Screenshot from Sina's official sports channel 


Li’s brief meeting with local provincial officials at the airport of Wuhan, where she is from, was largely symbolic. The 31-year-old athlete remained silent during the welcoming ceremony, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. 

Li Na quickly rose to prominence after winning the 2010 French Open and since then has remained a beloved figure in China for her lighted-hearted personality. She now has some 22 million followers on China's most popular microblogging Sina Weibo. 

Many netizens in China questioned local authorities's decision over the reward money:

Zhongguo Weishengwu from Jiangsu wrote:


Li Hongzhong gave Li Na 800,000RMB on behalf of the provincial government. If the money was from the leader himself, it was nothing debatable, but if the money came from taxpayers, who gives you authority to do so? The work of Li Na is essentially commercial sports, and for her team and her family, she has to fight in the battlefield. How was her championship connected with you? And where were you when she went solo? Where were you when she had no money for her knee surgery? Where were you?! 

 A prominent sports commentator Huang Jianxiang commented


Hubei government's decision to award 800,000RMB to Li Na wouldn't have created so much criticism 20 years ago. This is the progress of the society. However, the mindset of the officials pretty much stagnated as in the past: Each good personalities and good deeds have to be linked to the government, and government officials have to come out to send their greetings and congrats. In fact,  in certain areas, the less government inquiry the better, let the market have the say, which will be much more beneficial to the country and the public than bothering the mayors, it's particularly true in terms of sports industry. 

 LeeAng1015 wrote:


Does Li Na really need the 800,000RMB? Why do (officials) use money to express everything?  Where was this 800,000 from? It was our common people's money, was it for show by the government?

China News Service, a semi-official newswire, offered rare criticism:


It does not make much sense that the local government uses public finance to award a professional athlete. First, the government should strictly make and implement its budget, is there such a budget for 800,000RMB as award money? Second, the spending of public finance must be conducted in accordance with public principles, namely, they must be spent for public service, a professional athlete's championship, how is that related to public interest?    

January 27 2014

Alarm Bells Ringing (Again) Over China's Housing Bubble

Despite the property bubble alarms, skyscrapers keep emerging in major cities in China. Photo from Chris CC: AT-NC-SA

Continuously jumping home prices in the past year have raised concerns again about a real estate bubble in China as the government refrains from introducing any measures that would hinder economic growth.

New home prices in China's 70 major cities [zh] in December continuously rose from a year earlier, led by the large cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou going up 20.6 percent, 21.9 percent, 20.4 percent and 20.3 percent respectively, according to National Bureau of Statistics data. The sole exception was Wenzhou city from Zhejiang Province.

Alarms over China’s real estate bubble from experts and analysts at home and abroad have appeared time and time again during the past decade, but the bubble has yet to burst. Writing on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, economist Zhao Xiao believed China’s housing market and economy would continue growing, but might result in a devastating side effect:


Much commentary from both domestic and overseas media outlets has talked about the collapse of China’s financial and real estate markets, with some even predicting the collapse of the economy. All of them have good arguments, but I believe the economy will still grow as China still has nearly four trillion US dollars reserved and the country is still going through urbanization. What really concerns me would be a “warm boiled frog” effect, the situation as described by economist Yang Xiaokai as the “curse to the latecomer” and the “social decay” scenario as mentioned by sociologist Sun Liping! 

Even though the bubbles do not bursted out as the banks have enough money to support the economy, Zhao predicted that the hot property market will intensify social inequality [or social decay] as the later comers would have to pay for a property price that they could not afford. Popular online social critic “Rongjian2009” echoed Zhao Xiao's analysis and criticized the government for its lack of determination to change the economic structure:


I expect [the government] would end up quenching a thirst with poison, delaying the collapse of the economy by pumping liquidity [by issuing more bank notes] into it. Certainly it would prompt a vicious inflation which could create a crisis on a larger scale, a simple effect of “we just don’t change”.

“Victor Liu Lei”, an investment expert, also highlighted the relationship between the oversupplied currency by China’s government and the jumping of asset prices:


China’s currency supply has tripled since 2006. The flood of currency has stimulated economic growth, as well as pushed asset prices to peak. Public fears about a bubble have increased with housing prices soaring.

Despite the alarms, policymakers are not keen to bring the market to a shuddering halt because real estate is a major driver of the economy, supporting some 40 other industries and generating about 16 percent of the country's 8.5 trillion US dollar GDP. Indeed, property is one of the best investment options, and local government revenues mainly depend on land sales. Zhao Xiao shared the latest economic data with his Weibo followers:

最新数据���2013年房地产业销售6.4 万亿元���猜猜地价多少������缴纳契税2874亿元;房产税1372亿元;营业税4051亿元;土地增值税2719亿元;缴税合计约1.1万亿元;银行房贷余额12万亿元;获8400亿元利息;土地收入28517亿元;政府和银行从房地产获利47917亿元;占6.4万亿元收入的75%。您还要再问明年房价会不会降吗���

Fresh data: sales revenue of real estate is 6.4 trillion yuan [approximately 1.06 trillion US dollars] (guess how much is the land price); deed taxes are 287.4 billion [approximately 47.5 billion US dollars]; real estate taxes 137.2 billion [approximately 22.68 billion dollars]; business operating taxes 405.1 billion [approximately 67 billion dollars]; increment tax on land value 271.9 billion [approximately 45 billion US dollars]; total tax amount about 1.1 trillion [1800 billion US dollars]; mortgage balance 12 trillion [1.98 trillion US dollars]; interest gains 840 billion [138.87 billion US dollars]; land revenues 2851.7 billion [471.45 billion US dollars]; government and banks gained 4791.7 billion [792.17 billion US dollars], accounting for three quarters of sales revenue. Do you still ask if housing prices will decline next year?

However, the over-dependence on the property market in the economy has resulted in a vicious cycle. In response to the news story that a factory owner with one thousand employees in Wenzhou made a million-yuan profit in a year while his wife earned 30 million yuan in property investment in eight years, Zhang Wenxue, a clerk working in Sina, sighed at the unjust economic game:


A friend of mine complained his seven-year work ended in vain due to housing prices soaring after he postponed to buy for a year, a big blow to diligent work and unfair. In such an environment, who will still do industry? People scramble for real estate and game markets. The economy will derail sooner or later.

While overseas media, such as Forbes, believe that the deteriorating living environment and air quality in Chinese cities will take a toll on China's skyrocketing home prices, many Chinese people think otherwise.

Polarized development

The polarized development of urban and rural regions has resulted in the concentration of resources like job opportunities, education, medical services, etc. Nearly all of the central state-owned entrepreneurs’ headquarters are located in the capital, and scores of key universities and hospitals are concentrated there, while some other provinces just have one.

However, it is extremely difficult for young people to settle in first-tier cities. Oriental Morning Post commentator “Tong Dahuan” predicted that in a year or so, the property prices in big cities would become absolutely unaffordable to the majority of young people:


The times when young people under 30 could buy homes in the first-tier cities will be gone, except when your father is a big official or tycoon, or you could be compensated for home demolition. Hurry up and buy if you are able now. Most young people will miss the chance to own a private apartment within the first-tier cities forever.

“Hou Lei of Ever-bright bank”, on the other hand, pointed out that the fundamental solution to runaway housing prices is to address polarized development and redistribute resources:


News Observers used “wild horse” to describe housing prices surging in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Why have the various policies introduced by the government failed to curb the runaway horse? I think the most fundamental reason is the serious imbalance of regional development. Those policies carried out by government are superficial. The ultimate solution is to redistribute public resources, such as medical and education services [to less developed regions.]

January 26 2014

China Sentences Citizens’ Movement Icon Xu Zhiyong to Four Years in Prison

A number of petitioners expressed their support of Xu Zhiyong outside the Beijing court early this morning. Photo from Zhu Chengzhi's Twitter.

A number of people expressed their support for Xu Zhiyong outside a Beijing court early 26 January 2014. Photo from Zhu Chengzhi's Twitter.

Xu Zhiyong, a prominent Chinese citizens’ rights activist and an icon for the New Citizens’ Movement, was sentenced to four years in prison by a Beijing court on 26 January 2014 for disrupting public order related to two small demonstrations for equal education rights in 2012 and 2013.

His arrest and imprisonment is part of a crackdown by new Chinese Communist Party leadership under President Xi Jinping against political liberals who have been trying to advocate for constitutional reform to protect individual citizens’ rights. More political liberals will be put on trial in coming weeks. 

To defend himself against the political prosecution, Xu wrote a long court statement on 22 January to explain his political beliefs and practices, in particular related to the New Citizens’ Movement which has been a main target of suppression since early 2013.

Xu explained the spirit of New Citizens’ Movement in the opening of his statement:


The New Citizens’ Movement urges every Chinese to become an upright citizen, to believe in and enact their citizen identity. We are citizens and the masters of the country, we are not the empire's subjects, nor their obedient servants, nor the rights-deprived grassroots, nor rioters. We have to enact our citizen rights. Those sacred rights including election rights, freedom of speech and religion written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Chinese Constitution cannot remain an IOU. We have to enact our citizen responsibility. China belongs to every Chinese person. The baseline of conscience and justice is where we stand and we have to stand firm to protect [our values]. The New Citizens’ Movement advocates the citizen spirit of freedom, justice and love.

Peaceful gatherings or disruption of public order?

The two incidents that were referred to by authorities as disruptions of public order took place on 5 July 2012 and 28 February 2013, when Xu and other activists gathered to pressure education authorities for equal schooling opportunities for migrant workers’ children.

In China, because migrant workers do not have household registration in cities, their children couldn't enter local schools and many of them were deprived of education opportunities. The New Citizens’ Movement's campaign for equal education began in 2009 with demonstration aimed at education authorities in Beijing, and the following year, authorities granted permission to Beijing schools to admit migrant students.

The second stage of the campaign was to press the Ministry of Education to change its policy and allow migrant students to take university entrance examination according to their schools’ locations. The ministry agreed to introduce a set of new policies by mid-2012, and a small protest was organized on 5 July 2012 to follow up on the promise, which was fulfilled by the end of 2012.

But Beijing was not covered in the new policy guidelines. To press Beijing authorities to adopt the new policy, another small protest was staged outside the office of the Beijing Education Committee on 28 February 2013.

Xu explained why the two demonstrations did not disturb public order:

7.5 和 2.28請願,我們去的是教育部門,是公民到國家機關表達訴求,我們去的不是法律意義上的公共場所。刑法對公共場所界定得很清楚,是除國家機關、社會單位、公共道路之外的公共空間…

We were petitioning outside the education authority on 5 July 2012 and 28 February 2013 as citizens. The organizations are government-related authorities, not public spaces in a legal sense. According to the penal code, the buildings of government authority, collective units, highways and roads are not considered public space…

Many Chinese human rights observers believe that the two occasions are pretext for China to suppress the New Citizens’ movement, which has been vocal in putting forward citizen agendas for social and political reforms, such as pushing for officials to disclose their properties and advocating constitutionalism, a political stand that brought Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo an 11-years prison sentence in 2008. Similar to Liu Xiaobo, Xu's New Citizens’ Movement also stressed the peaceful transformation of the political system in China:


Don't be afraid of the New Citizens’ Movement. We are citizens of the new era. We say farewell to enemies and authoritative ideas such as the “emperor's landscape”, “overthrow”, “take over”. We believe in freedom, justice and love. We give up brutal actions such as “conspiracy”, “violence” and uphold peaceful and transformative acts to push for social progress under the Sun. The mission of citizens’ groups are unlike opposition parties. We believe constitutional democracy is the ultimate means to the future of a civilized polity and our mission is to promote the political transformation of China with other progressive sectors.

The four-year sentence has caught many by surprise. Liu Xiaoyuan, a Chinese human rights lawyer, expressed his frustration about the harsh reality for political moderates in China on popular microblogging website Sina Weibo:

Sources say Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years in prison. This is much more than I predicted. I know that imprisonment was inevitable, but this is a heavy sentence. On second thought, in a country where there is no rule of law, such a heavy sentence is not that surprising.

Liu Xiaobo, who does not have any enemies, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for political charges. Xu Zhiyong, who advocates for non-violent acts of civil disobedience was sentenced to four years in prison for disrupting public order. What does this tell us?

Teng Biao, another prominent human rights lawyer, believed the people's struggle will never cease:

The four-year sentence of Dr. Xu Zhiyong treads on law and citizens. The public security organs, the procuratorial organs, the court and the authorities behind the scene had to be responsible for this. Prison will not destroy the people's will to resist, but will light up the people's passion to fight.

[One political prisoner is too many] The important role of Dr. Xu Zhiyong will manifest itself slowly. In the near future, authorities’ suppression of civil society will be more heavy-handed, but there will be more grassroots resistance. There will be more and more conflicts and more political activists, citizen rights activists and people with a conscience put in jail. We can lose our battles many times, but it takes only one battle to beat them.

Chinese-Style ‘Tiger’ Parenting Triggers Complaints Among Younger Generation

Chinese parenting style is often described as “controlling”. This parenting style, also referred to as a “tiger parenting”, has gained special attention since the release of the book “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“ in 2011.

Recently, one graduate's resentment that his parents forced him to give up a job has resonated among China’s younger generation online, who shared the same frustration over their parents’ outdated attitudes and strict parenting style in everything from education and hobbies to career and marriage.

Beijing University graduate Wang Xiao was forced to give up a decent job he had found after graduation because his parents thought the job was not within “the system”, meaning it doesn't belong to state-owned enterprises or is related to the government, thus lacking in security. Like most Chinese parents born in the 1950s and 60s who experienced the more difficult times of Chinese history, they still value stability and social security more than anything else.

However, the generation born after 1985 has a completely different mindset, setting up parents and children for conflict. For example, earlier this month, a Chinese mom bought a entire page of advertising in the Chinese Melbourne Daily to beg her son to come home for the New Year after her repeated attempts to force her son into marriage had scared him away.

Wang Xiao's story went viral on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, and has become the most discussed topic of January 24, 2014. Many complained online about the lack of understanding and overwhelming control of their own parents. 

photo from Sina Weibo

Photo from Sina Weibo

User “Alpaca” analyzed the changing attitude towards careers among the two generations:


Different social environments have led to different ideas about careers. In the era of our fathers, food and clothing were the main theme, so a stable source of income was the “iron rice bowl”. For contemporary graduates, food and clothing are not necessarily the main concern; for them, a job also involves a kind of idealism and spiritual needs.

Netizen “shishang zuidade xingfu shianjing” summed up typical Chinese-style parenting:

1、过分溺爱 2、心灵施暴,扼杀独立人格的树立。3、物质刺激 4、动辄体罚 5、朝令夕改 6、精神方面孩子是家长最熟悉的陌生人。 7、事业,孩子沦为家长实现未泯理想的工具。8、道德家长和学校一起空白。9、生活近乎泛滥的物质。10、性教育,孩子顺利成长的绊脚石。

1. spoiling children, 2. spiritual violence to stifle independent personality growth, 3. material incentives, 4. physical punishment, 5. constant change of mind, 6. parents are children’s most familiar strangers spiritually, 7. children become parents’ tool to realize their own unfinished career dreams, 8. lack of moral education, 9. too much materialism, 10. Lack of sex education becomes the stumbling stone in children’s growth.

Xinyan zewuyan” wrote:


[They] kill innocence during children's’ childhoods, kill our romance during adolescence and kill our will during our youth.

 Another user quoted Chinese writer and blogger Hanhan:

很多家长不许学生谈恋爱, 甚至读大学还有很多家长反对,但大学一毕业,所有家长都希望马上从天掉下来一个各方面都很优秀而且最好有一套房子的人和自己儿女恋爱,而且要结婚。想的很美啊

Many parents don’t allow their children to go on dates. Even during college, many parents oppose to it, but once you graduate, all parents want someone to date and marry their children immediately, someone who’s good at everything and better have an apartment. How beautiful.

“Que” lamented


Parents are used to the idea of intervention with children, in their study, work, or even marriage. They never read their children's minds, or respect their children's decisions, they always think they can dominate everything about their children. Sadly, this kind of thinking will be passed down from generation to generation.

Another user stressed the dangerous quality most Chinese parents value in their children: 


Chinese children’s worst “advantage” is obedience, listening to parents at school, then work, then marriage. Parents’ highest praise is that “so and so’s child is obedient. “If parents are gone, who is there to listen to? “Obedient” is even more frightening than a cult.

One netizen saw hope in the younger generation:


Perhaps it's difficult to change the way our parents think because of their experiences, but hopefully one day when we become parents, we will avoid the same mistakes and our children will enjoy more independence and freedom.

January 24 2014

Zhihu: A New Space for Questions and Discussion in China

Since China's crackdown on the most popular social media Sina Weibo, a new online platform Zhihu has become popular among public intellectuals as a space for rich discussion. Similar to, Zhihu allows Chinese web users to post questions, with the best responses upvoted by others. It is free from government censorship, at least for now. TeaLeafNation has more details. 

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